What is your contribution to architecture?
New York-based architect Lee Mindel received his Master of Architecture from Harvard after obtaining his B.A., Cum Laude with distinction at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked for the New York architecture firms of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and then Rogers, Butler, Burgun, before forming the firm Shelton, Mindel, & Associates with Peter Shelton in 1978. Since the formation of Shelton, Mindel & Associates in 1978, the architects have strayed from the dictates of their modernist training to avoid the trappings of a signature style. Their formal explorations steadily oscillate between the "modern" and the "traditional," directed in each cast toward a carefully wrought simplicity. In addition to the firm’s architecture and interior design expertise, it has a product design division with collections for Knoll, Waterworks, Jack Lenor Larsen, V’Soske, and Nessen Lighting. Shelton Mindel & Associates is the recipient of 17 AIA awards for interior architecture, three design awards from the Society of American Registered Architects, a Progressive Architecture citation, three Roscoe awards for product design and most recently the 2004 American Architecture Award from The Chicago Athenaeum. The American Institute of Architecture, the National Academy of Design, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts have exhibited the firm’s work in both traveling and permanent exhibitions. Both Peter L. Shelton and Lee F. Mindel have been inducted into the Interior Hall of Fame, and in 2000 Mindel became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Question: What is your contribution to architecture?
Lee Mindel: I am not dead yet. I don’t know. We just keep trying. We tried to look at all the elements available to us as environmentalists, artists, architects, builders, craftsmen, and distill each of those down and create a kind of pallet in which each of those disciplines becomes part of your brush stroke and you create a painting by not ignoring any one of those things or taking one for granted and synthesizing them. So I guess we try to use the landscape, use the building and use the interior seamlessly and may be we are exploring that. Also we have startled the kind of ‘ism’ of their kind of two camps that have always existed. That is the kind of abstract camp and realist camp throughout history and when modernism got very popular in the idea that we could live in utopia as modernism in the machine would replace man. It was a fantasy and an experiment that really didn’t work. So then we saw after that whole kind of modernist thing and you see low cost housing which ganged on to the idea of utopia which it really wasn’t. In fact there is a place called the Utopia Parkway, which is kind of hilarious, but --- so all these towers and all these corbusier[phonetic] are say blocks built with the hope of being utopia but without the master doing it himself its hard to assimilate utopia and it was also a kind of fantasy. So after that moment we moved into a kind of historicism and a postmodernism in which everybody was grabbing on to something from the past because they felt as though their future had failed them. So then we got to passed that and modernism became an ism. It became a revivalism. So now we are kind of in that modernist revivalism and then there is this whole group of orthogonal and the rationalist and then there is the flying shrapnel and irrational and you have those things going on, butPeter and I have tried to do is find a way to link those things together through a string of word not turn our back on the past but not give up on our future either and how we could work in context in a non-literal way in a somewhat abstract way to bring the past and the present in a kind of synthesis and I think that’s navigating that line is very interesting.
Recorded On: 6/1/07
Mindel discusses the unraveling of Utopia Parkway.
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